On April 5, 1973, the footballing world mourned the loss of a ‘one in a million’ figure.
The sudden passing of Essendon champion John Coleman brought shock, disbelief and widespread grief to friends, family and the Victorian football community.
A legend whose feats still last to this day as unmatched, the man who kicked 537 goals in 98 games left an indelible legacy on the VFL and the history of the Bombers.
Having won two premierships as a player in 1949 and '50 and two more in 1962 and '65 as a senior coach, the Coleman name is revered around the Essendon Football Club.
One of the great tragedies in Dons folklore was when the then 25-year-old, in only his sixth season of football, suffered a dislocated knee - an injury which put an abrupt end to Coleman’s career as a player.
Yet, Coleman’s shock death overshadowed that chapter to become one of the darkest days in the Bombers’ history, with many struggling to fathom how a man so invincible in his footballing ability could succumb to a shock heart attack at just 44 years of age.
Speaking on Essendon’s new 150-year anniversary documentary The Bombers: Stories of a Great Club, Coleman’s daughter Jenny Goullet said her father’s death was unexpected and she had never forgotten the scenes from his funeral.
“I was absolutely blindsided because I looked at him as if he was invincible,” Goullet said.
“We had the service at St Thomas’ Church where mum and dad were married, and people were crying in the street as we drove off.”
Two-time premiership player Russell Blew echoed Goullet’s sentiments, saying it truly was the day that “Essendon stood still”.
1965 premiership forward Ted Fordham reiterated the shock reaction to the news of Coleman’s passing.
Fordham, who had received a phone call only hours earlier about the legendary figure’s deteriorating health, still gets emotional thinking about what occurred.
“One of the most horrible experiences of my life was I had a phone call at midnight, the day prior to John passing away, to say that he was in big trouble,” Fordham said.
“I get emotional thinking about it (his death).”
One of the sadder aspects of the story is Coleman’s death might have been preventable.
Coleman had been down visiting the Dromana Hotel with friends when he suddenly fell ill and subsequently succumbed to a heart attack.
It was an event which may not have occurred if he’d been in an area with adequate medical treatment.
“He wasn’t in Essendon that night,” Goullet said.
“He complained (about not feeling well) for a couple of hours and then he slumped forward. They couldn’t find a doctor around.
“They tell me there’s a window to get yourself to the doctor [to prevent a heart attack] which would have happened if he had been in Essendon.”
Bombers fans can delve into the triumphs and tragedies of Coleman’s life in the premiere of The Bombers: Stories of a Great Club via Foxtel and Kayo on Tuesday night.
Episode one, which focuses on the reign of 'King Richard' (Dick Reynolds) will air at 7:30pm, followed by episode two on Coleman at 8pm.
Essendon club members will have already received an email with a one-month Kayo voucher (new and returning Kayo subscribers) to watch the month-long release of the docuseries. If you have any questions regarding your membership and access to this offer, please contact member services on (03) 8340 2000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.